By Alex Bridges -- email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County officials claim a report done on the U.S. 340/522 corridor and annexation contains errors used by Front Royal Town Council candidates during their campaigns this spring.
Town Council at their meeting Tuesday heard from Douglas Stanley, county administrator for Warren County, who spoke on behalf of his Board of Supervisors. Stanley provided a formal response to the study performed by former Front Royal Town Manager and Councilman Walter Duncan. While not criticizing Duncan who Stanley said had the "town's interests at heart," the administrator noted that the report contained numerous errors and omitted important information.
"By portraying a 'them versus us' relationship for the Town and County, Mr. Duncan also ignores the benefits to the Town of County residents working, shopping, buying meals, going to the movies, and participating in other activities in the Town that add to the Town's tax revenues," Stanley told council in his report. "The fact is that the Town and County rely on each other for prosperity."
Contrary to the report, Front Royal benefits greatly from the commercial development of the U.S. 340/522 corridor, according to Stanley.
Rather than refute Stanley's statements or question his own report, several members of council criticized the Warren County official for bringing up the matter in an open meeting.
"I think it's unfair for you to stand up here in a public forum and cut apart the report Mr. Duncan did in a private forum so I got an issue with that," said Councilman Thomas E. Conkey, who accused Stanley of taking a "them-versus-us" angle on the matter.
Conkey expressed hope that council in the future could work together on the issue of a boundary adjustment and find a solution beneficial to both localities. But the councilman added that it seemed unfair for the county to criticize the report without Duncan present to defend his conclusions.
Councilman Carson C. Lauder Jr. disagreed with Conkey. He also didn't see Stanley's statements as a direct attack on Duncan.
"[The] county should be here telling us how you see it ... letting us look at your facts and your figures to see where you are, where we are," Lauder said. "This is the only way things get done and it's done through a public forum tell us what you're doing and how you see things."
As Stanley explained, both town and county users of the water and sewer system paid for the extension of the lines into the corridor -- not just town residents as Duncan's report asserts. The water and sewer lines serve as an asset to the town, according to Stanley.
The administrator stated the county's 4 percent meals tax generated $690,000 in revenue in 2010-2011, contrary to the $1.2 million cited in Duncan's report.
The benefits to the town included increases in tax revenue on sales and meals as well as business licensing between 1990 and 2005, according to Stanley.
As the administrator explained approximately 15-20 percent of the use and revenue for the water and sewer enterprise fund comes from customers outside town limits in not only the corridor but other neighborhoods in the county. The town has received millions of dollars in revenue from the extensions of the water and sewer system into the corridor, according to Stanley.
"No where in Mr. Duncan's documents is this acknowledged and it represents an egregious omission of the contribution of these customers," Stanley states.
The administrator also refuted the assertion in Duncan's report that the county not lose revenue from annexation of part or all of the corridor. Stanley explained the county would lose the taxes it collects currently from the properties along the corridor if the town annexed the area.
Warren County residents living outside town limits subsidize those people in Front Royal by $2.77 million per year based on the fiscal 2006-2007, Stanley stated, noting that Duncan's report fails to mention this.